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WPP PLC Up Over 4% On Record First-Half Profit

The share price of WPP (LSE: WPP) (NASDAQ: WPPGY.US) is up over 4% so far today, following release of the global advertising and communications conglomerate’s interim results for 2013.

The company has reported billings that increased 5%, to £22.7bn, with reportable revenues up 7.1% (2.4% on a like-for-like basis) to £5.3bn.

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Pre-tax profit was up over 12%, at £524m — the first time it’s been over half-a-billion pounds sterling in the first half — and headline diluted earnings-per-share grew just over 10%, to 28.4p.

The board has recommended an interim dividend of 10.56p per share, which is an increase of 20%, and has also committed to raising the dividend pay-out ratio from the current target of 40% to 45% within two years.

In terms of its geographic operations, revenue growth increased in WPP’s North America and UK markets, but, despite “strong overall growth”, it slowed in Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe.   It  also says that its Western Continental Europe market “remains currently very challenged from a macro-economic point of view”, although “it does feel that some markets, like Spain, are bottoming out”.

The company comments that continued client concerns about the eurozone crisis, unrest in the Middle East, a Chinese or BRICs hard-or-soft landing, and the record US deficit is making them “reluctant to take further risks” (and, presumably, to spend money).

But it also says that while “the pattern of 2013 looks similar to 2012 and equally demanding”,  2014 “looks a better prospect”, with the World Cup in Brazil, the Winter Olympics in Sochi and another United States election (the mid-term Congressionals).

At the time of writing WPP’s share price is 1,231p. That’s up over 33% so far in 2013, and more than 46% on this time last year.

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> Jon doesn’t own shares in WPP.

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